Tag Archives: tomatoes

Insalata Caprese

18 Aug

The name means “salad in the style of Capri”.   It’s a simple but delicious dish from the Italian region of Campania, made of sliced fresh buffalo mozzarella, tomatoes and basil, seasoned with salt, and olive oil.  In Italy, unlike most salads, it is usually served as an antipasto (starter or appetizer) not a contorno (side dish).

While it’s unknown whether the salad actually originated on Capri, it became popular after being served there to Egypt’s King Farouk in the 1950s.

Some variations include adding chopped garlic, parsley, and various sauces, like Balsamic vinegar, Italian dressing, etc.  King Farouk reportedly enjoyed it as a sandwich filling.  Some people serve it atop pieces of baguette or other bread.  There’s a little Italian deli by my house that serves a Caprese sandwich and it’s nothing short of scrumptious.  There are countless ways to enjoy this simple little salad.

Last night I went out to my vegetable gardens to see if anything was ready for picking.  Little did I know my four cherry tomato plants were bursting with ripe little treats.

 

 

With the unusually hot weather we’ve been having the past month or so (upper 90s and low 100s) I’m not surprised I haven’t had this many to pick every day.  My plants are full of ripe and unripe little round balls and frankly I can’t keep up.  Tonight I thought I better get a head start and start eating.

I have a few basil plants in my herb garden.  I love basil.  The taste, the smell, everything about it.  Even if I never put a delicious leaf in my mouth, it would make me happy just to put the leaves up to my nose and inhale.  Easily one of my top favorite smells.  I put basil in everything.  In fact, this morning I made little muffin pan omelettes and used the tomatoes and fresh basil. Thank you Bonnie, from recipeshappen for the recipe inspiration.  If you’re not familiar with her blog, check it out, it’s fun.

 

 

Since my garden has been producing such a wealth of tomatoes, and I always have the fresh basil, Caprese salad is my go-to for a light, refreshing, homegrown treat.   One of the best things about Caprese is that there aren’t really specific ratios you have to follow.  Just cut up or slice any type of tomatoes, cut up or tear the leaves of the basil (some are small enough to just throw in as is), add the cheese and dress as you like.  For me personally, I like to add balsamic vinegar and olive oil.

If you’re like me, you don’t always have a block of fresh mozzarella in the fridge and I guess you could even use the shredded stuff for pizzas.  But what I do always have on hand is string cheese (it’s the perfect low-calorie snack for after a work-out).  Some of you may not be familiar with string cheese.   What is it you ask? Why mozzarella of course.  So named because you can peel it from one end or the other and it comes away in a “string”.  Anyway… I take out my handy dandy kitchen shears and cut little discs.  It’s perfect.

 

 

This is a great little salad and one that’s so simple to make (especially when most of the ingredients come from your garden).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What’s growing in your garden?

Personalized Individual Homemade Pizzas

12 Aug

I was watching The Dr. Oz Show the other day and he had a few celebrity chefs as guests who had come up with lower calorie recipes for our favorite take-out dishes… Hamburgers, pizza and tacos.  I thought I’d be most interested in the taco, but after watching Chef Todd English prepare his pizza, I was convinced I needed to try it.

 

Now, if you’ve read my recipe posts before you know I never follow a recipe exactly.  Sometimes it’s because I don’t have the exact ingredients on hand, don’t care for a particular ingredient or frankly, I just forget a step or two.  Let’s face it, if I were a master chef I’d have my own TV show and wouldn’t be writing this silly blog.  Having said that however, let me say that my pizza was Uh-may-zing!

 

Growing up, one of my favorite dinners was to make individual pizzas. Everyone got to make whatever they wanted, pepperoni, sausage, pineapple, green pepper; if you wanted it you could have it.  No rules, nothing was out of bounds.  But if you made it, it was dinner.  I’ve carried on the pizza tradition with my daughters as well and it’s always been a favorite for them too.  It’s so much fun to design the perfect pizza in your mind, create it in your kitchen and enjoy it in your belly.

 

The recipe I followed (for the most part) from Todd English called for whole wheat Naan, but of course I forgot that part and picked up a package of whole wheat pita bread instead.  I’ve listed my pizza ingredients below, but feel free to check out the original recipe and short video if you want to see the real deal.

 

 

Ingredients

1 cup quartered artichokes*

2 tsp Mezzetta chimichurri sandwich spread*

2 Tbl low fat ricotta

4 or 5 large basil leaves, cut into thin ribbons

¼ cup shredded low fat mozzarella

4 or 5 cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered

½ cup arugula

1 tsp EVOO

1 tsp lemon juice

Salt

 

*Chef English’s recipe called for grilled artichokes, but I just used the regular quartered ones out of a can.  He also used what he called artichoke spread, but I couldn’t find that at my grocery store, so when I found the Mezzetta sandwich spread on the shelf I chose the chimichurri flavor (cilantro, parsley and garlic).  It sounded like the perfect complement to the other flavors in the pizza.  Well, needless to say it smelled and tasted delicious.  I definitely see sandwiches in my future with the spread on the bread (can’t have the rest of the jar go to waste!).

 

Directions

Pre-heat oven to 350.  Spread the chimichurri across pita to create a thin layer.  Add quartered artichokes and tomatoes.  Mix the ricotta and basil to create a smoother creamier texture.  Drop a few dollops on pizza.  Top pizza with shredded mozzarella.  Bake for about 7 or 8 minutes.  Ricotta mixture should begin to spread out a little bit.  It won’t melt down completely, just settle in.

While pizza is cooking, put arugula in a small bowl, add EVOO, lemon juice and a little bit of salt. Toss by hand to coat completely.  When pizza is ready, top with fresh arugula salad… sounds unconventional I know, but trust me you won’t be disappointed.

I was able to use fresh basil and tomatoes from my yard (always a bonus) and maybe next year I’ll have more ingredients for this pizza growing in one of my gardens.  My pizza was so yummy, it was… is  yummilicious a word? If not, it should be.

Gathered around the dinner table tonight were my husband and one of my twin daughters. I made pizza sauce for their pizzas (my basic recipe: tomato sauce, garlic, basil, oregano, onion salt, and pepper).  My husband’s pizza was pepperoni, mozzarella cheese, pineapple and fresh basil.  He loved it.

 

 

My daughter made a pineapple and jalapeno pizza and as you can see I couldn’t get to her soon enough to take the picture before she started in on it.  She loved hers too.

 

 

Remember, it’s all about you.  What tickles your taste buds?  This isn’t a pizza you have to share; it’s yours, all yours.  Don’t be afraid to use this philosophy in other recipes too.  There are some rules you should stick to, like fish and cheese shouldn’t be served together, but for the most part, think outside the box.  If you like an ingredient, throw it in there.  If it doesn’t turn out, chalk it up to a learning experience, but imagine if it’s fantastic!  You could be the next big thing, if not on Food Network, at least in your very own kitchen. And which place is more important anyway?

 

Happy cooking.

Vegetables and more vegetables…

20 May

To say I’m exhausted right now would be the understatement of, well I don’t know…let’s just say I’m bushed.  Ha ha ha.  Intentional pun there for those of you who are just as tired as me and may have missed it.

I went out this morning and picked up my good friend Monique to do a little plant shopping.  What a great way to begin my Sunday.  I wanted to return a raspberry I had purchased yesterday and pick up a few things that I needed for my front vegetable garden.  Monique also gave me cuttings from her gorgeous yard (a few more strawberries to put in my crate and some fern for my front yard).

Along the fence we have Ace Tomatoes and Corn and then Zucchini Squash next to the rose bush.  I planted 6 different kinds of peppers… Better Belles, Golden California Wonder, California Wonder, Sweet Banana, Jalapeno and Red Bell.  There’s a Straight-neck Squash and finally a Lemon Cucumber to round things out.  Again, I planted Marigolds.  Aren’t they cute?

Front Vegetable Garden, May 2012

I tried to model this year’s garden a little after last year’s.  Re-plant those that worked well and didn’t take up too much of my time, and say farewell to those that just didn’t work out.  Even thought I didn’t have much luck with my corn last year, Greg really wanted it so of course I’m going to give it another go.  Wish me luck.  Most of the peppers are new so I’m excited to see what happens with those and especially looking forward to the Lemon Cucumber.  My seedlings didn’t make it so when I saw the plant this morning I had to plunk down the $1.48.

This garden is on the side-yard along the driveway, so I don’t have to worry about the dog trampling the plants or the cat laying down sunning himself.  The new garden is in the backyard and I’m going to have to watch it a bit closer.  Our yard is full of squirrels and birds and I’m curious to see how much time they’ll spend in there.  I keep having to shoo the dog out of there, but I know she’s really curious because it’s all so new.  When the cat goes out he either finds a sunny spot to plop down or he naps under the arch of Blooming Night Jasmine, so I don’t think he’ll be a problem.

Front Vegetable Garden

You might be wondering if I just have vegetables and no fruit.  Well, when I first purchased the house almost 23 years ago, there was a small lemon tree in the back yard.  Growing right in the grass area.  Not the ideal spot for any kind of tree, it was really in the way.  Anyway, after a few years I yanked it out.  Since then, we’ve planted 2 apple trees and 2 pluots along the back fence.  In addition, we also have one very, very large, very, very old Avocado tree that is probably as old as the house (circa 1920).

Here’s a close-up of one of my Angels.  He watches over my garden but is a bit camera shy…

Shy Angel

Time to rest now.  Maybe I’ll just sit back and watch the fruits (or vegetables in this case) of my labor bloom.  May your day bloom as well.

Mozzarella-Stuffed Tomatoes

10 May

I first made these appetizers a few years ago when my husband and I threw our first ever stay-at-home; don’t invite anyone over Super Bowl party.  You see, neither one of us are big football fans and since most people we knew would otherwise be busy either throwing or attending parties, we thought we’d make all the food we wanted and stay home and watch the game (really just the commercials) when we wanted and change channel when we felt like it without anyone complaining.  Works for us.  Anyway, this is just one of the many snacks we made…

 

 

I found this recipe for Mozzarella-Stuffed Tomatoes in one of my magazines.  It’s a fun little twist on a Caprese salad but rather than serving it on bread (high in carbs), you can have a bite size appetizer that packs a full punch of flavor.

 

Cherry tomatoes (I prefer to use Campari myself)

Mozzarella, diced

Fresh basil, chopped or cut chiffonade- style

Olive Oil

Salt & Pepper

Balsamic Vinegar

Directions: Cut thin slice off top of each tomato.  Scoop out pulp with spoon or melon baller.  Lightly salt inside of tomatoes and set upside down on a paper towel to drain.  In a medium bowl combine cheese, basil, oil, and salt and pepper to taste.  Turn tomatoes right side up and divide cheese mixture into each one.  Don’t be afraid to overstuff.

Drizzle with balsamic vinegar.

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